‘Joyous day’ at unveiling of Serenity’s play park
School facility is dedicated to smiling pupil who lost cancer fight at age 10
The heartbroken parents of a 10-year-old girl who died from cancer, expressed joy at the opening of a school park dedicated to their daughter.
Bruce (37) and Leah Joubert (38) attended a special assembly at St Teresa's Primary School in west Belfast to see Serenity Playground being officially opened by Lord Mayor Deirdre Hargey.
The emotional ceremony took place less than a year after Serenity Joubert succumbed to an aggressive form of cancer she had been fighting since June 2017.
"Today was a very joyous day," her mum said.
"She knew this park was being built and she saw the plans before she passed away."
However, the P6 pupil, who was too ill to attend school throughout the 2017/18 school year, had feared she would never be able to enjoy it because she had been left disabled by her illness.
The young girl was unaware that doctors had already told her parents that her condition was terminal, following an MRI scan in June 2018.
"She got better at Christmas 2017 and enjoyed the holidays, but in February the cancer came back," her dad explained.
"It was in her spine and we were told she'd be paralysed for life - it was such an aggressive form of cancer and it just kept growing."
Medical experts predicted that Serenity would not live longer than a year.
Her family, teachers and classmates were devastated when she died just weeks later.
She passed away at home on July 28 surrounded by relatives, including her brother and two sisters.
"We never told her that she was dying because she was afraid of death, so she didn't know," her mum explained.
"She passed away believing she would have her turn in this playground."
Mrs Joubert recalled how the school's principal, Terry Rodgers, organised an end of term party for Serenity after being told that that there was no prospect of the popular pupil overcoming her illness.
"We asked her what she wanted and she said a party because she had missed a whole year of school," her mum recalled.
"Her friends believed it was because they hadn't seen her for so long - only the staff knew it was because she was so ill."
The grieving mum described the decision to name the education authority project after her daughter as profoundly meaningful and she expressed relief that they have "come full circle" since the tragic loss.
"This is a happy way for them to remember their friend," she added.
It's also a positive way for the South African couple to remember Serenity each time they drop their son Brandon off at the school gates.
Yesterday, friends paid tribute to their school pal who was "always smiling", before they released balloons which carried heartfelt messages. Mr Rodgers said that he was proud to dedicate the £250k play space and eco garden to "such a beautiful girl" who had left her mark on the school.